What Can Mike Tyson’s First Trainer Teach You About Your Mind?

mike tyson training

Over the weekend, I purchased the “Mike Tyson: The Undisputed Truth” audio book. Mind you, this book is 20 hours long. I am now 8 hours into this fascinating book. It is a very honest and candid account of his life, but what caught my attention most was how he became THE Mike Tyson.

When Tyson was 13 years old, he was living in Brownsville, New York, and had already succumbed to the elements of the neighbourhood he lived in. He resided in a poor community, ravaged by drugs, violence and sex. By the age of 12, Tyson was a well-known thief who was already in trouble with the law, and was thrown in and out of juvenile facilities. Even though he was living in a single parent household, his mother was a heavy drinker, and as a result, he was put in different group homes.

By the time Mike Tyson was 20 years old in 1986, he defeated Trevor Berbick and became the youngest heavyweight champion of the world.

Mike Tyson went from going nowhere fast to becoming a boxing legend in the span of 8 years. What in the world changed?

When Mike was doing a stint at one of the juvenile facilities at 13, he found out that some of the boys were being trained how to box by one of the facilitators. Eventually, a young Mike was introduced to the coach that would change his life forever. His name was Cus D’amato.

The first time Cus saw young Mike fight, he said, “that is the world heavyweight champion of the world!”

There was no doubt that Mike was a talented boxer, but he had absolutely zero belief in himself and his ability to be anything more than a criminal, let alone the greatest fighter the world had ever seen! At the rate Mike was going, he believed he would be dead by the time he was 16. Cus decided to take Mike under his wing, and move him into his house for the next 8 years. There, he taught him everything he needed to know to become a champion unlike anything anyone had ever seen.

Cus was known to have a very unconventional way of training his boxers. Many actually laughed him off as a crazy old man who used “mind control mumbo-jumbo” methods. Along with putting him through rigorous training, he set out to completely change who Tyson believed himself to be, through autosuggestion techniques, hypnosis and psychological conditioning. He turned Tyson from a hopeless, angry kid into a ferocious killing machine with an iron will to win. He would feed him pearls of wisdom like:

“Your mind is not your friend, Mike. I hope you know that. You have to fight with your mind. Control it. Put it in its place. You have to control your emotions, and learn to impose your will on the reality you want to create.”

Cus also spoke often to Tyson about fear. He would tell him: “What is the difference between a hero and a coward? What is the difference between being yellow and being brave? No difference. Only what you do. They both feel the same. They both fear dying and getting hurt. The man who is yellow refuses to face up to what he’s got to face. The hero is more disciplined and he fights those feelings off and he does what he has to do. But they both feel the same, the hero and the coward. People who watch you judge you on what you do, not how you feel.”

This 70 something year old man took a young boy into his home and heart and conditioned him, physically and mentally and turned him into a living legend.

A skeptic might say that it is easy to train a kid. After all, a kid hasn’t lived long enough to be sure about very much. But I believe that our minds are malleable, and can be moulded like clay, no matter how old we are.

Our conditioning is very strong, and when you want to change something you do not like, I would like to remind you of what Cus told a young Mike Tyson:

Your Mind Is NOT Your Friend.

Your mind has no interest in helping you change. It is happy with the conditions of your life, and up to this point, it has worked tirelessly to convince you of this fact. Your ego believes it will die completely if you start making mental and emotional changes towards improving yourself, and it has a very vested interest in keeping you where you are, to ensure its survival.

Your mind will stop at nothing to keep you stuck. It will pump you up with imagined fears, remind you of past failures and seduce you by making your current situation seem so comfortable and safe. Remember your mind has been with you since day one, and it has recorded every failure, every rejection, every bad thing that has happened in your life, so if you decide to do anything contrary to what you are comfortable with, it will fight you with very strong resistance.

All this may sound dramatic, but there is a reason I am bringing it up like this.

“To win the war, we must know our enemies.” Right now, our mind is an enemy. Our biggest one.

But we can get back control over our minds.

We can make it our ally again. But we must learn to be aware of this and control it. It is important that we start becoming the Master to our mind, not the slave.

How do we do this? Know yourself fully and create a plan!


1.       Identify What Is Really Stopping You!

The lack of finances is not stopping you from starting that business. It is your fear that things could go terribly wrong and you will fail miserably. You must first be fully aware of what is keeping you from pursuing your goal. Most of us are urged to start by taking action, but we get stopped dead in our tracks when we hit that proverbial wall. Know your gremlins!


 2.       Find a Way To Understand And Influence Your Own Behaviour!

Once you understand what is holding you back, find a way to talk yourself into believing in your intentions. Everything I do now is because I use one technique: self-talk. I influence myself by cornering my destructive thoughts and speaking out loud to them until I end up doing that thing I was either scared to do or was too lazy to do. You must learn to influence yourself into doing the things you do not like, for the sake of ultimately achieving that crazy, big dream you have in mind.


 3.       Study Yourself And Discover Your Patterns!

Turn yourself into your own scientific experiment. Observe yourself all day and document the data of how you think and act and what your daily routines and habits are. Writing your daily routine down and your daily habits is easy, but what triggers them can be difficult, but it is a project worth pursuing. You must know yourself very well in order to understand what works for you want what doesn’t!


 4.       Get A Plan And Customize It To Your Needs!

There is no success formula that is a one-size-fits-all. Don’t be lazy about this. Know what your preferences are and customize a plan to them. Make it challenging and exciting enough for you to WANT to get up and do it every single day.

A plan is not a plan until it specifies how you will deal with the setbacks. This is what I learnt from Mike Tyson’s brilliant trainer, Cus D’amato.

So what’s your plan, Stan?

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